by Sherry Stocking Kline
first published in Wichita Eagle’s Active Life Magazine – September 2000
Now that summer’s over, and you’ve got a shoebox full of vacation, grandchildren, wedding, and graduation photographs, it’s time for you to preserve those memories between the pages of a book, like a pressed flower, to be enjoyed again and again.
So where do you start first?
“Get some history attached to those photos,” said Bob McCreary, “that’s the first and probably the most important step.”
McCreary and his wife Kathy co-own Scrapbook Garden, Wichita, Kansas. McCreary said that Kathy carries photographs with her in her purse and whenever she has a few minutes while watching television, waiting for the doctor, or waiting to get a driver’s license she sorts photos and makes quick notes on the back with a photo safe pencil.
Once you have them sorted, McCreary said it’s really a quick step after that to put the photos in an acid-free, lignin-free photo album, and then “journal” or tell about the photos.
Each year, Gerry Reimer does a summer vacation album, and adds more pages to her all-Christmas album.
Journals Don’t Have to Be Elaborate…
Reimer said not to let your friends’ elaborate journals scare you off. “Streamline,” Reimer said, “get the photos on the page, and get the people identified.”
“First of all,” Reimer said, “Tell yourself it’s o.k. not to use all the photos you have.” Reimer said to choose pictures that tell who you are and where you were at that time, and be sure and include names and dates in your albums.
“I don’t keep a travel diary,” Reimer said, but Reimer said she jots down a few notes, picks up ticket stubs, colored brochures, saves travel itineraries and whatever else they might want to use in their vacation albums.
Reimer said you’ll know what you want to do, and what you don’t, after you finish your first book. Reimer’s first photo album was her wedding album.
“We’d been married 49 years,” Reimer said, and I didn’t like our wedding photos, so I had a wonderful time cropping off what I didn’t like and journaling about the pictures.” Reimer said she does “bullet journaling”, or writes short statements under most photos, saving long stories for special photographs or events.
Start With Recent Photo’s…
Bonnie Loewen, Creative Memories consultant, said the easiest way to get started is with your last roll of film while your memory of the event is fresh, and work your way backwards.
Tell A Story…
Loewen said to tell a story with words as well as with pictures. How were you feeling? What was going on in the family, and the world? Loewen said even the current price of bread and gasoline will be interesting to future generations.
Loewen said to write as you would talk, don’t worry about punctuation, and write a sloppy first draft. You can re-write it later, Loewen said.
Answer the Five W’s – Engage the Five Senses…
Think about the five senses and the five W’s, advised both McCreary and Loewen, adding that it will make ideas for captioning your photos come easier. Just remember to answer the questions who, what, when, where, and why questions, and engage the emotions by writing about how something looked, sounded, tasted, felt, and smelled.
Preserve Your Handwriting, too…
McCreary said and its faster to use a computer to journal, but it’s not as personal, so he said not to be afraid to write in pencil and go over it later with a permanent marker, or even cover up mistakes with cardstock.
“Some people don’t like their handwriting,” McCreary said, “but people years from now will cherish seeing the handwriting of the person who made the journal.”
Scrapbooks can help bridge the generation gap, so along with vacation, wedding and family photos, include stories and pictures of military service and other events to help future generations understand the times you lived through, and what makes your family special.
Ordinary Days are Important…
Loewen said it’s also good to make pages of what an ordinary day was like in your family, too, not just the special events. “And make a signature page,” Loewen said, with your name, date, who the album is for, and why you did it, “it’s kind of like signing a quilt.”
If you have a lifetime of photographs ask for help from your family. Reimer said that kids and grandchildren are great to help photo captions.
McCreary agreed, “it’s good to get family members involved.”
“Make it a fun activity,” McCreary said, “have everyone sit down and talk about the photos, and try to communicate some of the emotion.” You get different perspectives of an event by talking to different people.
“It’s really exciting that people are making a legacy and trying to pass on their roots and their values,” Loewen said, “values can be lost in one generation if they are not preserved.”
“People will forget you in one generation if you don’t tell your story,” Loewen said, “you can make such a difference in people’s lives with a scrapbook.”
“In a sense,” Reimer said, “your whole book is the story of your family.”